UPDATE: Washington County Commissioners hire Marietta attorney for opioid lawsuit

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Washington County Commission approved the contract and hiring of Marietta attorney Ethan Vessels to represent the county in a federal class-action lawsuit against opioid distributors at its weekly meeting Thursday.

UPDATE 6/25/18

Washington County is looking to hire a local attorney to represent the county in a multi-county class action lawsuit against opioid distributors.

Washington County commissioners and the prosecutor's office are reviewing a contract with Marietta attorney Ethan Vessels of Fields, Dehmlow and Vessels. He is currently representing Noble County in the lawsuit.

Some of the commissioners were reluctant to join because of the potential cost, but with the current contract, Vessels would charge 25 percent of the gross recovery plus expenses as a contingent fee. As a result, if no money is recovered, the county will not owe any money.

"Should the people in these communities that are paying their taxes have to pay for the additional jail cells," Vessels said, "coroners' expenses, medical expenses, foster care expenses when all of it was foreseeable and preventable by the very companies that profited from all of this."

"We're just simply saying," Washington County commissioner Ron Feathers said, "if there is a judgment, if there has been a problem with the distribution, you know the excess distribution of these products that the taxpayer be reimbursed."

The commission hopes to vote on the contract at the July 5 commission meeting.


Wood County governments recently signed on to join lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic.

Thursday, Washington County heard from attorneys involved in one of those suits.

They explained the suits would name opioid manufacturers, but would not include retailers such as pharmacies.

The representatives of an Ohio firm noted Washington County ranks 20th among Ohio counties where opioid abuse is considered a problem.

"But it doesn't take into effect how the opiates are coming in from other areas," attorney Robert Miller added. "For example, Lawrence County, Ohio going into Kentucky. And that's only from the Ohio Department of Health, that's not from the other states as well."

The commission made no decisions on hiring a firm.

Members have not yet considered whether they want to join a multi-district lawsuit.